Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and author of the online dog training course "Brain Training for Dogs."
Make your dog work for its food!
Puzzles and Mind Stimulating Interactive Toys for Dogs
Everybody knows that dogs need exercise in order for them to live healthy and happy. The saying ''a tired dog is a good dog'' seems indeed to back this up. This especially applies to those dog breeds that were bred to do a ''job''. Working breeds, such as hunting dogs and herding dogs indeed wake up in the morning looking for something to do. Refrain from giving them enough exercise, and they will likely find some other way to entertain themselves, such as digging holes in your yard or chewing your favorite slippers.
Some dogs may also need mental stimulation to keep themselves entertained as well. This does not mean that you must teach your dog how to do your child's homework or that you must keep the National Geographic Channel on for him. It may simply mean that they may need to work their mind in order to reach a goal.
Let's go a bit back in time and see why dogs may seek mental stimulation. In the wild, for instance, canines have to resort to certain strategies to survive. For instance, wolves packs need to critically think and plan carefully how to hunt prey. Often they resort to highly intelligent strategies such as pushing a group of Caribou over a dry river bed where there are higher chances for one to stumble upon river rocks, fall and become easy prey.
Back to dogs, a little fast forward, dogs had to work with their master before being fed, most of the time. Dogs therefore had a job and they had to critically think the best ways to carry out their duties. Hunting dogs had to decide which path to follow when using their nose to track prey, herding dogs had to quickly decide in which direction flock of sheep had to be moved in order to effectively gather them together, and so forth. A long working day awaited them before coming home with their master and being allowed to eat the left over remnants of wild geese or other hunted fowl.
Today, dogs still have this inherited need to mentally and physically work. They have a predisposition to think things out and make decisions on how to obtain something. This is where mentally stimulating games come into play. And just as exercise, mentally stimulating games make dogstired afterwards, sometimes even more than a simple walk around the block.
Following are some mentally stimulating games for your dog that will help keep your dog entertained and mentally stimulated.
Kongs are a favorite among dogs and owners. Stuff a Kong and dogs will be entertained for quite some time. This toy has been also helpful for dogs that tend to exhibit mild behavioral problems. If you must go out, stuff a Kong and leave it for your dog to engage in a challenging activity in your absence. Don't like a certain behavior such as chewing your furniture? Say ''no'' and re-direct your dog by tossing a nicely filled Kong and praising for using it. Best of all, the Kong is very durable and has quite a long life when compared to other toys.
One note: it seems like dogs get smarter and smarter. The first time your dog may take an hour to release the treats but then it may take less and less. It is up to you to stuff it in more challenging ways to make it last longer. If you are away for quite a while, you may want to invest in a new Kong dispenser, doggy-day care in a package!
Kong and the newest Kong Dispenser Machine!
Busy Buddy Kibble Nibble Dog Toy
This toy resembles a bit a hamster ball, but is in reality a random treat dispenser that will likely keep your dog entertained and mentally stimulated. The good thing is that your dog will also get some exercise as he must tumble the ball around and about in order to gain access to the treats.You can basically set up the dual Treat Meters to randomly dispense treats so it becomes unpredictable.
The ball is covered in plastic bumpers to help protect your walls and furniture from being bumped into and scratched. This toy stimulates your dog's prey drive and makes him work for his food!
Help Shed Some Pounds !
Kyjen Hide-A-Squirrel Puzzle
This toy is a puzzle and will put your dog's natural instincts to work.Simply hide the squirrels in the tree trunk and let your dog use its thinking skills on figuring how to get them out. To help keep the dog entertained, the squirrels have squeakers in them, so your dog may further continue having fun by shaking them as he proudly carries them around the home. When the dog appears to be done playing, stuff them back in the tree and start a new session.
The squirrels and tree trunk are made of plush and are claimed to be quite durable, however they may be quickly destroyed by powerful chewers. Supervision is also a must as some dogs may ingest parts.
Go Hunt that Squirrel!
Some owners have dogs that find fetching the best way to keep exercised and mentally stimulated, but who can keep tossing the ball all day long when there are other things to do? Introducing Fetchtastic, the automatic fetching machine that will keep up with your dog and meet or exceed its needs! Basically, the machine is set to toss a ball every 7 seconds. Your dog then has the choice to return the ball tossed or keep on fetching repeatedly non-stop. Of course, supervise your dog for signs of exhaustion, some dogs never know when to stop!
For Fetching Fanatics!
Nina Ottosson's Interactive Dog Toy
Who said board games are only for humans? Your bored dog may enjoy some interactive play with this ''board game'' featuring removable bones which hide treats underneath. This game requires some manual dexterity so your dog learns new skills and solutions to the puzzle. His nose will come into play as well, since he will try to figure out which bones hide the treats under and search for them.
Bored Dog Board Game
Margaret on November 25, 2018:
Does she have a problem with her teeth?
ShannaAnna on September 07, 2018:
My sweet Luna Belle loved fetch and ball chasing for about 5 months. She HAS to have her "chewy " every day but in the last few months she has started walking away from it after a couple of minutes. It seems like her only interest is seeking other animals, of any kind, and playing with other dogs is her main desire /focus! She has sought the friendship of toads, frogs, 2 opposoms, cats, a hamster, chickens, even a snake! Thank goodness it wasn't poisonous bc it bit her 2 days in a row... In the very same place on her snoot! She would have tried again if the snake would have shown back up in the yard! I don't know what to do that will interest or stimulate her! She does like tug even though her interest has also declined in that too. I tried hide and seek with toys, treats and food. I have reward sessions with her. Have her perform for praise and snacks. I am paraplegic so walks are not as long as I would like but I take her everywhere that I can and make and take her to play dates as often as I can. She was so excited about everything when I brought her home. I really hope it is the summer... She hates the heat almost as much as I do! Anyone have other ideas?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 19, 2012:
Thanks for stopping by. My Rotts have had the same Kong for 3 years!
JRickert on October 19, 2012:
Nice Hub. My dog has razor-sharp teeth and only has broken one Kong so far. Great product!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 27, 2012:
Thank you, as a dog trainer I often recommend the interactive toys for dogs left alone for some time. Of course, always keeping safety in mind!
Joe Njenga from Nairobi Kenya on May 27, 2012:
Dog Toys are inevitable when it comes to training dogs. They are very useful and important to train and correct deviant behaviors in dogs.
Thanks for your useful tips
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 12, 2012:
Happy you found the list helpful. My rotts have the same Kong for 3 years! call it a durable chew toy!
ShepherdLover from Portland, OR on March 12, 2012:
Great list! Our dog loves his various Kong toys and we look forward to giving some of the other ideas on your list a try too!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 04, 2012:
Thanks for sharing, they do sound like awesome toys!
Proud pit bull owner on February 04, 2012:
Our pitty loves her Unbreakoball dog toy. It drive her nuts trying to pick it up. She actually talks to the darn thing. My husband bought it online at unbreakoball.com you have to check these out!
kjrzeek1 from New Jersey, USA on January 17, 2012:
Great post, thanks for the info. We recently had to put down two of our dogs over the past two years, and it was really hard. We have one dog left with 2 young children, and we are struggling on if we should get another dog right now. This hub makes me really miss our dogs.
online pet on June 08, 2011:
I love to read this interesting blog. This post is so different. The machine is on a timer and launches the ball for the dog to chase and catch. All the example videos show dogs catching the ball and then loading the machine themselves, rinse and repeat, one at a time. I just couldn’t leave your website before saying that I really enjoyed the quality information you offer to your visitors.
Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on February 10, 2011:
I am printing this out to show my wife. thanks
erthfrend from Florida on February 05, 2011:
This was an excellent and very useful hub! I think a lot less dogs would get sent to the animal shelter if the owners would try things like this first. You are so right about boredom and you can just imagine how many dogs get bored being stuck in the house all day while their owners are at work! Its not their fault they get destructive. I hope a lot of readers with dogs read this hub, its so important!!
Karlstad on February 04, 2011:
Wunderful blog. I will follow from now on. ..
Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on February 04, 2011:
My Puppy Girl loves her felt square puzzle into which go one or more soft felt balls through various shaped holes. She's played with it enough that it only takes her a couple of seconds to get the ball out through a hole, but that doesn't keep her from enjoying it. Just means "Mommy" has to keep putting the ball back into the puzzle. Unfortunately, she hasn't learned to do that any more than she's learned to put all her toys back into her toybox!
By the way, I stopped wasting money on any but the strongest toys years ago. I buy those canvas toys that are sewn with (I believe) heavy nylon thread. She can chew on them...I can throw them in the washer and dryer when they get dirty...none of them have worn out! Wish I could recall the brand name, but I always cut off the small label that stuck out so my dog wouldn't chew on it. (That's the only part of the toy that can be chewed up.) You will recognize them in the toy store, however, because they are obviously the strongest stuffed fabric toys there. JAYE
Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on February 04, 2011:
Our Lab is a powerful chewer and the only toy he doesn't immediately tear apart is the Kong toy. It is truly durable. Nice run down on some alternatives. Thanks.